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Episode 5: Boost Your Brain One Bite at a Time

In Episode 5 of Defy Dementia, you’ll learn that what you eat can impact your brain health. First, hear from Anjali Gupta, a retired dietician who has made several changes to her diet to reduce her dementia risk following her mother’s dementia diagnosis. Then, find out how food can affect the brain with Dr. Thomas Holland, a physician and nutrition expert from Rush Institute for Healthy Aging at Rush University Medical Center. Tune in for practical tips to help you make brain-healthy food choices.


Key takeaways

  1. Eating the right foods can decrease your brain age by seven and a half years, boost your immune system, decrease inflammation and cell damage, and decrease your dementia risk.
  2. No matter your culture, budget or where you live, you can make tasty, brain-healthy food choices. 
  3. Try to avoid plates heaped with beige fried foods and starches. When you go to the grocery store, head to the produce section first. Dark green leafy vegetables, colourful fruits, whole grains, nuts, beans and legumes, contain quality vitamins and minerals to improve your brain function.

Key highlights

Jay: “There's mounting evidence that diet is a key way to reduce your risk of dementia.”
Anjali: “Because of my mother's dementia diagnosis, I have made a very conscious effort to include lots and lots of green, leafy vegetables in my day-to-day eating.”
Tom: “We have research that [with a healthy diet], you can decrease your brain age by seven and a half years. To put that into context, if somebody is 67.5 years old and they've been maintaining a high-level nutritional intake, they could effectively have the brain age of a 60-year-old.”
Allison: “Changing your behavior just a little bit can make a very, very big difference. No matter what your normal eating patterns are, you can tweak them just a little bit and make this advice work for you.”



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Learn more about our guests

Anjali Gupta is a retired dietician and a vegetarian foodie. She emigrated to Canada 27 years ago from India. Anjali earned a master’s degree in nutrition in India, and a diploma from the University of Toronto.  After university, she got a job in the public health system. Since retiring early, she practices yoga and mindfulness to reduce stress. Much to her surprise, her mother was diagnosed with dementia two years ago. The diagnosis was a wake-up call for her. She read about dementia risk factors and volunteered at dementia societies and Baycrest to learn more. Since then, she has changed her lifestyle a lot to minimize risks, and has changed the family diet to be more brain healthy.
Dr. Thomas Holland is a physician, nutritional expert, and neuroepidemiologist focusing on the impact of lifestyle modifications on brain health as people age. He is motivated by a love for nutrition and his own family experience with neurodegenerative disease. He watched his grandmother struggle with dementia for a decade.  He also witnessed his stepfather struggle with obesity and different diets. Both experiences inspire and inform his practice and research. Tom is a clinician-researcher at the Rush Institute for Healthy Aging at Rush University Medical Center, one of the nation’s leading centres studying nutritional risk factors related to Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. He is also a faculty member in the College of Health Sciences, Department of Nutrition at Rush University.